What is the Wife of Bath's occupation?

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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As her title proclaims, The Wife of Bath was a wife. Along with this she is a maker of cloth, an adventursome traveler and a wealthy widow from having handled four out of five husbands well. There was much theological discussion in the latter half of the 14th century about the role and place of wives in a Catholic society. The doctrine was that wives were truly the daughters of Eve and, as such, were out to undermine their husbands in any way possible. In the Church's eyes (the Catholic Church was supreme at the time as the Protestant Reformation didn't occur until after Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517), wives could easily become "wicked women." Since the Wife of Bath (meaning she lived in Bath) has had five husbands, she perfectly fit the Church's definition of wicked woman.

msmeow-7867's profile pic

msmeow-7867 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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Bath is a well-known city about 100 miles west of London. It was once the site of Roman-built baths, and as such, was a fashionable tourist destination for many of the wealthy English and Scottish royals, aristocracy, and nouveau riche of the late 17th -19th centuries. Chaucer's Wife of Bath was a wife from the city of Bath. Her primary occupation seems to have been being a wife, since she had been married 5 times! But she was also apparently a skilled weaver and cloth maker, and Chaucer spends some time describing her clothing, which demonstrates her cloth-making skills. In addition, the Wife of Bath is a devoted Christian who makes frequent pilgrimages, so it could be argued that another occupation, something that occupies her time, is that of enthusiastic traveller. However, it should be noted that Chaucer's description of the Wife of Bath, from her clothing to the gap in her teeth, is one of a sexually dominant woman who manipulates her husbands with her body.

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